Why You Should Know Ellen Baxter
Her conservation talents continue to breathe life into many of the works of art we enjoy at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
photo by maranie rae
Ellen Baxter: Chief Conservator and Paintings Conservator
Carnegie Museum of Art
About: Ontario native Ellen Baxter might be viewed as a hidden image — or force — operating unseen (and often uncredited) behind many of the works of art we enjoy at the museum. CMOA originally hired her to work on The Andy Warhol Museum’s opening exhibition; 25 years later, her conservation talents continue to breathe life into the collection as she keeps works clean and rejuvenates time-worn pieces, returning them to delight patrons’ eyes in Pittsburgh and sometimes beyond.
- Baxter earned a graduate degree in conservation from Queen’s University in Canada and was a Mellon Fellow at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum.
- She’s worked on Monet’s “Waterlilies,” John White Alexander’s murals and pieces in several Carnegie Internationals.
- Baxter gave major TLC recently to Picabia’s “Machine Sans Nom” (gouache on laminated pressed paper board) to retouch paint losses and repair cracked and flaking paint. That went on the road in 2016 to a Picabia retrospective at Zurich’s Kunsthaus; it’s now at MoMA for the New York segment of the show.
- Her eagle eye and sleuthing skills helped Louise Lippincott, the museum’s fine arts curator, to reveal the identity of a 16th-century portrait of a woman for the museum’s “Faked, Forgotten, Found” show in 2014.
- Despite staying behind the scenes, Baxter sometimes spontaneously interacts with visitors, pointing out overlooked subtleties in various works of art. In one of the Alexander mural panels, she insists there’s “an angel holding a hot dog.” As she explains, “If Bosch could paint floating sausages 500 years ago, why can’t Pittsburgh have an angel holding a hot dog that has ketchup and relish on it?”